Sikhala court troubles mount as magistrate rejects lawmaker’s recusal request

HARARE – CCC legislator Job Sikhala’s legal losses continued Wednesday when Harare magistrate Tafadzwa Miti dismissed the jailed lawmaker’s application seeking the court official’s recusal from handling his trial over alleged bias.

This means that Miti shall continue presiding over Sikhala’s trial.

The firebrand politician is jointly being charged with fellow party legislator Godfrey Sithole for allegedly inciting public violence during the tense memorial service for slain CCC activist Moreblessing Ali June this year.

In dismissing Sikhala’s application, Miti said it was improper for the tormented lawmaker and his legal counsel to base their application on bias claims adding that she has not made any verdict against Sikhala.

The magistrate said Sikhala should give her a chance to weigh evidence during trial before concluding she is biased.

In her ruling, Miti vowed impartiality, arguing that she would make her final decision based on the evidence that would have been presented during the trial.

“Recusal is the stepping down of a judicial officer on bias, personal interest and other basis that would render them impartial,” Miti said.

“The submission of the parties involved is that there is a real likelihood of bias. Accused is not alleging any real case of bias. Therefore the application for my recusal is therefore dismissed.”

Miti recently denied Sikhala bail saying the lawmaker had a penchant to keep committing crimes of similar nature.

The magistrate labelled Sikhala an unrepentant criminal.

However, Sithole, who is out on bail, had no reservations against the magistrate handling the opposition pair’s trial.

Sikhala, arrested mid-June this year, has seen many failed attempts to secure his own freedom.

The High Court and lower courts have both dismissed his application on grounds that he had no respect for the law.

After the application for recusal was dismissed, Sikhala’s lawyer, Jeremiah Bamu, said the magistrate’s decision to dismiss his client’s recent bail application as well as her remarks when she delivered the ruling were a sign that the trial would not be conducted fairly.

Sikhala will be appealing the magistrate’s ruling at the High Court. He asked for postponement of the hearing.

The State, represented by George Manokore, did not oppose the application, noting that it needed time to subpoena witnesses and prepare its case.

The matter was then postponed to January 11, next year after which Sithole, through his lawyer, Oliver Marwa noted that he would file for a separation of trial if the State failed to try them on that date.

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